Encouraging Children's Talents
What is Your Talent?
I remember a family discussion we had years ago when our first seven children were all quite small. We asked each of our children to tell us about their talents. Our oldest three children all eagerly spoke up and took turns naming several of their talents.
When it was time for our fourth child to speak, big tears started rolling down his little cheeks. He hung his head and sadly said, “I don’t have any talents.” As I watched him cry, I had a flashback to my own childhood when I felt that my siblings had received all the talents in the family, and I was left with nothing. I completely understood how he felt.
A Little Black Bat
I tried to reassure him by pointing out his many different talents, but he would always counter what I said with, “That’s not my talent. . . that’s not my talent . . . that’s not my talent.” I finally realized that he wanted to have a talent that was different and unique from everyone else in the family.
There was nothing I could say to comfort him that night.
However, the next day I read in the newspaper about a tryout for a children’s musical production. I took him to the tryouts, and he got a part—as a little black bat—in this traveling community theater’s musical production of Snow White. That was the beginning of his musical career as a performer and singer. He had found his niche!
I was so grateful to my community for providing my young son with this opportunity that he needed.
Running the Bases
Sometimes children are too shy to try new things. As you stand by their side and give them gentle words of encouragement, they will eventually gain more confidence. I remember how timid one of my daughters was to play t-ball.
For the first few games, I had to stand beside her while she was batting, and then take her by the hand and run with her all around the bases. Halfway through the season, she told me she no longer needed my assistance!
It's important to take the time to explore options with your children until they find an activity that they are interested in, not necessarily what you want them to do.
One of my daughters loved gymnastics, which can be an expensive, time-consuming sport. I told her she was too tall to be a gymnast, and it wouldn’t be worth the investment. So, I made her take dance lessons instead. Finally, she started saving her own money, took gymnastic lessons, and proved me wrong. She became an excellent gymnast, and now loves teaching gymnastics to children.
I should have let her follow her heart.
We need to be a cheerleader for our children as they gradually develop their interests and talents.
Twice, once when I was 43 and again when I was 53, I volunteered to coach my daughter’s YMCA basketball team because no other parents were available (even though I don’t play basketball myself)!
To assist me, I recruited some more experienced basketball players to help me teach the basic skills of basketball, while I focused on teaching my teams positive thinking and high self-esteem!
Did I make a difference in my two daughters' basketball careers by being their coach? I like to think I did!
It’s a sacrifice of time and energy to be an involved parent who stands in the background of your children’s lives, but the rewards are huge as you watch them gain self-confidence and later share their talents with others.
Excerpts from Wings of Glory: Addiction, Recovery, and High Self-esteem, Part V.